Casey Cadwallader was all too aware that he was the fifth designer to take the helm of creative director at Mugler since the eponymous founder retired from fashion in 2002. it’s thanks to him,” says Cadwallader, who boosts the famed French fashion house and dresses stars like Beyoncé, Cardi B, Megan Thee Stallion and Kim Kardashian. “[Manfred Thierry Mugler] devised something that is provocative and daring and exciting and that makes people feel sexy and chic and that they are seen. That’s very different from a lot of other houses and that’s why I want to take it very seriously, because I want that torch to burn brightly.”
Manfred Thierry Mugler, who founded the house in 1973, played a role like few others in defining 90s fashion, from 1993 onwards. indecent proposal dress — worn by Demi Moore, it spawned millions of copies — after George Michael’s 1992 “Too Funky” video, starring a cadre of supermodels, including Linda Evangelista and Tyra Banks. Mugler, whose designs fused sexuality and empowerment, died unexpectedly of natural causes in January at the age of 73. “It was a surprise, no doubt; I expected to hang out with him a bit more,” says Cadwallader. “Now I feel this responsibility to keep his work alive, but it’s a weight I carry with pride.”
Cadwallader, 43, says he’s also discovered things about himself since becoming the house’s creative director in 2018. “Casey at Mugler is not what Casey would be on his own,” he says. “Luckily, I like the codes of this house, and you really have to educate yourself and know the archive. Maybe I’m a little less SM than he was — and then I look at some of the things I do and think, ‘Maybe not.’ “
Cadwallader’s process begins with what he defines as ‘the Mugler silhouette: a large shoulder, a narrow waist and a rounded hip. While each season offers its variations, that’s the gist.” The house doesn’t follow the traditional fashion calendar, so the latest see-now-buy-now collection, Spring/Summer 2022, premiered in June and focuses on pieces such as razor-shoulder jackets, body-con dresses and bondage-inspired strappy bodysuits.
The collection premiered with a star-studded video that featured Megan Thee Stallion, Bella Hadid, Amber Valletta, Shalom Harlow and Chloë Sevigny. (Cadwallader also designed one of three dresses Sevigny wore for her wedding in May.) Other recent projects include performance looks for Cardi B and Dua Lipa: “Musicians who need things have become a big part of what we do. do,” says Cadwallader.
Another musician who called in earlier this year: Beyoncé, who requested a custom design to wear for her latest album, Renaissance; Cadwallader’s pleated dress with integrated metal bustier (inspired by one of Thierry Mugler’s famous robot looks) has been featured in promotions for the album, including the teaser for the video ‘I’m That Girl’. “That was a great piece, because I was ready to give my opinion on the Mugler robot, to approach that part of the archive. Beyoncé responded extremely well to that, so we worked around that idea and made several proposals,” says Cadwallader. “Much of my fortune and success at Mugler is due to these special relationships.”
Expansion is also a top priority. “We have more going on now than ever, and I think that’s a sign that Mugler is really moving to a new place,” said Cadwallader. “We have a lot of new product categories to be launched soon, a lot of new babies ready to show the world.”
Is he nervous? “Being scared is a good thing,” he says. “Mugler is very much about taking risks and putting yourself out there.”
A version of this story first appeared in the September 16 issue of News Kidda magazine. Click here to subscribe.